"As for the county, give them a box full of clues."
With the holidays upon us, I took the opportunity to speak with the foremost authority on gift giving: Santa Claus. We played an old game called “Who Gets What?”
We go way back, having originally met when I filled in on his golf foursome in Florida. We email, text and catch a couple dinners every year.
I tracked him down in San Francisco following a busy morning where he did remote interviews from a TV studio for the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning.” We met at a Shakes on Market Street. He’d lost his traditional red suit, hat and boots in favor of some dad jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and a pair of New Balance jogging shoes, which he caught me staring at. “I have bum arches,” he explained. “These things feel good and look stupid, whatcha gonna to do?” He blew on a black coffee and suspiciously eyed a muffin filled with an unidentified fruit.
“So Nick, oysters are a big deal out in West Marin again. Drake’s Bay shut down after the feds got done with them, but now Tomales Bay Oyster Company has gotten even more popular and is having problems with the county. Who gets what?”
“Wow, no warm ups? OK. For the guys who own Tomales Bay, get them some patience. They’re dealing with government, and when did that ever go quickly or as planned? As for the county, give them a box full of clues. After they misjudged the whole Grady Ranch Lucasfilm thing, they need a win to convince the business community they actually understand how the real world works. You might want to get a card that says ‘Perception Is Reality’ for that present.”
He nibbled on the muffin and put it down. “Why did I order this thing?”
I took a sip on my half-caf, dairy-free soy double espresso latte and shrugged my shoulders. “You want something else?”
“I want biscuits and gravy with hash browns and a side of bacon, but that wouldn’t be my ‘healthiest choice,’ as my wife says. She’s like this around the holidays every year. Says I need to make life easier on the reindeer. Give me another question.”
“Fireman’s Fund moved to Petaluma. Who gets what?”
He dabbed at his beard with a napkin. “For the former employees, you get them jobs, obviously. For the company, less aggressive margins might be right. For the city and the economy in general, some new tenants for the campus would be a nice fit. Some biotech firms maybe, somebody who wants to be in Marin for the long haul.”
At this point, all I could think of was bacon, maybe some pancakes—no, a waffle! Damn, Nick. “The first two were warm-ups. Here’s a tough one: Affordable housing is tearing the county apart. The morning commute is terrible because so many folks can’t afford to live in Marin. Housing is scarce and too expensive. Employers have a tough time recruiting and retaining employees. Developers don’t want to build housing that isn’t market rate, governments don’t have the political will to make changes and lots of residents think affordable housing is a great idea, as long as it’s built someplace else.”
He shook his head. “You need to be more cynical.” He took a breath and continued. “Alright, start with the locals who say, ‘Not in my neighborhood,’ and get them maps; remind them they live in the United States, where one of the prevailing values is that you need to care about your community, especially those who need a little help. Get the developers a dose of understanding, so they get they can’t build without affordable units—make it the cost of doing business. Get the politicians backbones, so when the naysayers whine, they can stand-up. Get the employers some common sense, so they can get involved in bringing the housing to reality.”
“That’s a long list,” I said
“Think how I feel,” he said.
Your Marin moment
In the spirit of the holiday, the city of San Rafael and BioMarin Inc. exchanged gifts, with the city approving a 72,000-square-foot building on Lindaro Street as well as a 297-space parking expansion on Lincoln Avenue for the biotech firm’s downtown campus. The company deepened its commitment to Marin and will bring more jobs and dollars flowing into the economy. By one estimate, the addition will mean another $60 million added to the local economy.
BioMarin purchased the San Rafael Corporate Center in 2014 for $116.5 million, which included plans for the addition.
Bill Meagher is a contributing editor at NorthBay biz and an associate editor at The Deal’s West Coast office in Petaluma. He wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Winter Solstice, Yule, Kwanza, Boxing Day and Festivus.
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